Patricia Velasquez

Venezuelan beauty Patricia Velasquez possessed a winning smile and dark, exotic features that made her a star in the fashion world and helped her launch a successful acting career in Hollywood. She was born Patricia Carola Velasquez Semprun on Jan. 31, 1971 in Guajira, Venezuela to an Indian mother and a Venezuelan father. The fifth of six children, Velasquez spent her early years living in Paris while her parents worked for the international organization UNESCO. After her father's contract ended, they moved to Mexico City and then back to Venezuela, where finances were so tight that the family could not afford to have running water. But her parents, who worked as teachers, made sure that Velasquez and her siblings received a good education. After graduating from high school in 1987, she went off to college to study engineering and accounting. Velasquez had no plans to become a model, until a friend of hers included her photo in a package sent to a casting call. As luck would have it, the agency called Velasquez, jumpstarting her modeling career that would eventually include appearances in exclusive fashion shows, print ads for Chanel and Victoria's Secret, and magazine editorials. In 1989, she competed in the Miss Venezuela pageant, taking seventh place.